Soon after a new mother gives birth at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., she gets to hold her new baby—and enjoy a juicy cheeseburger.
The post-partum Patient Burger, a signature at the Cura Hospitality-managed hospital, has built a large fan base that stretches way beyond the delivery room. “Now, people come off the streets and order it in our cafeteria,” said Paul Roberts, executive chef at Woman’s Hospital.
The cheeseburger was on the menu before Roberts arrived two years ago, but he added a few of his own touches to make it even more craveable.
“I season it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and Montreal steak seasoning, then marinate the grilled burger in au jus so it doesn’t dry out,” he said. Roberts and his team can prep 15 to 20 burgers at a time with this technique, so they’re at the ready when new moms are at their hungriest, just coming out of childbirth.
To complete the burger build, the kitchen melts American cheese on top, then layers lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickle slices on the patty and places it on a buttery, toasted brioche bun. Condiments and fries are served on the side. If the mom’s spouse or birthing partner wants one, too, the burger combo goes for $9 in the hospital cafeteria.
Roberts and his staff make about 80 burgers a day for post-partum moms, their partners, hospital employees, room service patients and locals who have heard that it’s the best burger in town.
Case in point: One day, Roberts started chatting with a Baton Rouge police officer, sharing that he is the executive chef at Woman’s Hospital. The officer’s wife had recently given birth to twins and the policeman was raving about the cheeseburger. Some eaters have even posted photos and reviews on social media.
Aside from its craveable flavor profile, the Patient Burger makes a restorative post-partum meal. Sarah McBroom, a registered dietitian at the hospital, said that women lose a lot of blood during childbirth. Beef is loaded with iron, an important component of blood.
For Roberts, all the attention around the Patient Burger is going a long way to elevate the reputation of hospital food. “It’s come 180 degrees from where it used to be, said the executive chef, who serves about 600 breakfasts and 700 to 800 lunches every day. “We have items like hand-carved roast beef and scratch-made fried chicken on the line.”
He loves to cook dishes from other countries, too, and is especially proud of the curries he’s created for the menu. He also recently introduced jollof rice, a West African specialty, and frequently offers jerk chicken, jerk fish and fried plantains from the Caribbean.
“I recognize that food has healing powers in all cultures,” Roberts said.